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Regardless of who you support and how much you may despise José Mourinho and his antics, “let’s be honest”, nobody could ever have predicted his Chelsea side’s implosion during the first quarter of this season.
There have been 22 reigning champions in the Premier League’s history. From that elite group, only two have failed to finish in the top three the following season. On each of those occasions, the title holders could only amass a seventh place finish. Let it be said, Mourinho is by no means condemned to finishing in a record-breaking low position, by all means he may take the Blues higher. However, the sheer enormity of his fall from grace is baffling for all who follow the Premiership.
From a statistical point of view, throughout the Premier league era champions have possessed a 90 per cent chance of finishing in the league’s top three the following year. Perhaps most damning for José is that for the most part, the league holders from the past have finished at least as the runner-up, with the holders retaining the trophy on seven occasions and ending as runners-up on eleven other occasions.
In a nutshell, previous winners have secured a back-to-back title or second spot in almost 82 per cent of the time over the last 22 years. Manchester United have the pleasure of being both the best and worst in terms of their performance as league champions. As everyone knows, Fergie’s era brought great success and the Red Devils are responsible for six of those seven title retentions, However, United also fell to third in 2002 and back repeated that finish again in 2004. With Sir Alex’s last league title in 2013 signalling the end of his tenure as manager, few of us will forget the 7th place finish which followed in 2014 under the watchful eye of David Moyes.
Taking all things into account, one must believe that Mourinho, and every Chelsea fan, would happily take a top three finish. One sticking point in their quest to do so lies with statistics again, as on average it’s taken 76 points to finish in third place over the past decade.
Only Chelsea fans won’t have been enjoying their clubs abysmal campaign thus far, but for all of us it’s scarcely believable the champions’ struggles would continue for as long and as badly as they have. Having lost only once at home in the league in his first 99 matches in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho has already lost twice at the Bridge this season, with three defeats on their travels too.
Not since the Manchester United team of 1998-99 have the league holders collected fewer than 80 points. Provided Mourinho’s Chelsea don’t lose another league match this season, they would still need to win at least 21 of the remaining 28 fixtures to break that 80-point barrier.
Despite Chelsea’s troubles, the Stamford Bridge side are still a decent bet to achieve Champions League qualification next season, along with the likely combination of Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
This year’s championship is shaping up to be a very closely contested, congested league. It’s predicted that the points tally required to finish fourth possibly won’t be as high as in recent years given the increased competition posed by so-called “mid-table” sides. There is a reasonable chance that the points tally could be lower than the unusually low 70 points that Manchester United recorded last season on their way to securing a top 4 finish.
Usual suspects in the top four race, Liverpool, are three points ahead of Chelsea. That gap could be closed at the weekend when the sides clash at the Bridge. Thus far, the Reds haven’t really been firing on all cylinders and they don’t possess the talismanic frontman in the Beligian, Davock Origi, required to break into the top four. Arguably, they don’t have the defensive quality or creative midfield required either, but time will tell if Klopp can turn their fortunes around.
At this stage of the season it looks like London clubs competing to join the two Manchester sides and Arsenal in next season’s Champions League, namely Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham. With all three of the chasing teams planning moves to bigger and better stadia in the near future, qualifying for the Champions League would bring an important, if not vital financial boost to each club, respectively.
Mourinho is obviously an exceptional manager, his managerial record and list of honours cannot be disputed. However, for the first time in his 15 year career, “the Special One” faces a real uphill battle that will provide an honest test of his ability. He has shown his desire for silverware time and time again; now, he has to demonstrate some steel, or risk being removed from his beloved Chelsea dugout.